Tag Archives: mexican

earning your [favorite dessert here]

A family friend recently asked (regarding my veggie-loving, meat-free diet), “Lindsey, I just don’t understand what you order when you go out for fast food” to which I could only respond, “Well, I don’t eat fast food.” I realize this is a lifestyle choice, and the next few thoughts explore why it’s mine.

Now I think dinner in 20 minutes does count as (pretty-darn) fast food, but, yes, it requires planning ahead—precisely why I write this handy blog for you! The following grilled treat is healthy and creamy-wonderful; I simply do not believe there has to be a trade-off between enjoying food and treating your body well. Lately I’ve been considering whether this perspective is an adoptee thing?

It feels like people around me are always yapping about their genes, “A strong heart runs in the family, I just eat what I want…” Or persistent co-worker: “We’ve always had good cholesterol on Dad’s side, I don’t need to worry about sodium”. Maybe two decades of checking the not applicable box on those medical history forms has led me to the silly assumption I’ve got take things into my own hands mouth and eat foods that will best provide my body with nutritious fuel. Adoptees often don’t know of historical health on which they can rely, not that this makes all of us vegetarians…

I love to eat, I live for cheese; I cook at home so my food can be delicious and controlled in salt and fat (motive: so I can live a long time traveling the world with Andrew, who has enviable genes). Call me nuts for considering this concoction a complete meal, but it was divine and followed by a well-earned a gelato date with the hubs. Andrew my Chicken-Loving Man loved this, called it restaurant material. Gene-ius 😉

Grilled Corn and Feta Bruschetta

based on a June 2011 recipe from Bon Appetit

2 ears corn, shucked

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 loaf fresh ciabatta bread

1/2 garlic clove

1/4 cup sour cream (or crema mexicana)

3 tbsp. crumbled feta

1 large tomato, chopped

1 lime

fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or chives)

chili powder

kosher salt

fresh black pepper

Grill the corn

If you want to speed along the corn cooking (and avoid charred, raw kernels), consider partially cooking the cobs in the microwave. When ready to grill, rub the corn with vegetable oil and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill over medium heat until lightly charred and tender. Slice corn off the cob in wide strips.

Season the Bread

Cut the loaf into one-inch slices; stack the slices and cut them in half (I found grilling smaller pieces the second night—not pictured—made for easier eating). Lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil and grill on each side until slightly charred (just 3 or so minutes on each side, keep on eye on ’em). Immediately rub the top of each slice with the cut side of the garlic—a rustic Italian technique you will love.

Assemble the bruschetta

Mix the sour cream with feta (I used fat-free sour cream).

Smear the toasts with the cheese mixture and top with the grilled corn and chopped tomatoes. Squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over each and garnish with your favorite herb (a must). Top with chili powder (also essential; I use a completely mild chili powder and it adds lovely smokey flavor to the corn and lime).

Without a Grill?

If you find this recipe as alluring as I did on paper, you can replicate it without a grill by cooking the corn (either in the oven with this fabulous method, or cutting off the cob and then sautéing in olive oil until tender). Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast on a baking sheet in a 400F oven until lightly brown, rubbing the garlic on the bread as soon as it’s out of the oven.

Pepita and Spinach Salad

inspired by an April 2011 taco recipe from Epicurious

1 large tomato, chopped

1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup canned chickpeas

1/2 lime

3/4 cup packed spinach leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 avocado, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks

1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

olive oil

If the pumpkin seeds are raw, toast them until fragrant in a dry, medium-hot skillet. Toast the chickpeas in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and stir until brown and crisp.

Combine the sliced spinach and tomatoes with a generous squeeze of fresh lime and small drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the feta, avocado, chickpeas, and seeds just before serving.

More about my most adored indoor grill here. And have you checked out the updated About Lindsey tab??

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weeknight fiesta

Last time we were talking about fabulous (and freeze-able!) creamy corn soup, which definitely requires an accompaniment—don’t ‘cha think? Let’s go for something quick, foolproof, and not too messy. I spent three-too-many years putting the salsa inside the tortillas and am thrilled to share my leak-proof quesadillas with you.

To make this an exceptionally budget-friendly meal, grab a container of pre-cut mixed onions/peppers in the produce section, or a small melange of your favorites from the salad bar. Either runs around $2, far less than purchasing a variety of whole bell peppers.

You’ll find a variety of quesadillas here on A Pear to Remember, and they are a fabulous go-to for last-minute inexpensive dining. Simple grilled healthy goodness.

Your Favorite Grilled Quesadillas

whole-wheat quesadillas (love Trader Joe’s handmade Whole Grain)

your favorite cheese, shredded or cut in small pieces (cheddar, goat cheese, etc.)

mixed vegetables (only your favorites: onions, peppers, mushrooms, squash, whatever)

shredded, cooked meat (if that’s your thing)

olive oil

herbs (optional) like chives, cilantro, or basil

your favorite salsa (red, green, or fruity)

you will also need:

a grill or large nonstick skillet

Heat the pan to medium-high heat. Toss your vegetables (cut into even pieces) with just enough olive oil to glisten—adding a pinch of coarse salt if you desire.

When the pan is very hot, spread the vegetables evenly over the heat and leave the vegetables to brown for a few minutes. Using tongs or a large spatula, turn the vegetables a few times until they are browned and tender. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Place a tortilla open on the grill. On one half, sprinkle cheese, a thin layer of vegetables and meat (if using), followed by another sprinkling of cheese—the quesadilla should not be overflowing. Fill another quesadilla the same way so you have two quesadillas in the pan, their folded sides touching.

Use tongs to gently turn the quesadillas after about three minutes, or when the first side is browning. When the second side is brown, transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a minute. Using a large chef’s knife (or pizza wheel), cut each half into four wedges.

Serve with salsa for dipping, sour cream (if you’re feeling indulgent), and herbs (if you read my recent windowsill post). Perfect alongside this corn soup, appetizers, or maybe my favorite cilantro rice. Do let me know your favorite variations, the possibilities are easy and endless.

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butter soup

Yes, now I’ve got your attention. You see, I arrived home from work yesterday and landed happily in my resting place: the kitchen. For those of you who have alternative preferences for lounging, you will so appreciate this three ingredient soup. Summer has emerged from a rainy spring this week with hot, hot days here on the east coast. It’s just that kind of weather for such a pleasant color pallate: corn and lime.

Peeling corn may not sound like a post-workday activity for some. For me, it brought back memories of sitting on the deck with Mom, tearing husks over newspaper. Even with the peeling, this entire soup is on the table in 20 minutes. Guiltless budget-friendly creamy creamless soup with a flavorful low-fat side in 20 minutes?! Well, let’s get right to it.

Creamy Corn Soup

gently adapted from Fresh Food Fast, serves 8

16 ears yellow corn

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

coarse salt

suggested garnishes:

tortilla chips

lime wedges

sliced scallions or chives

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. My kernel method: using a large, sharp chef’s knife, slice the bottom of the cob so it is flat. Hold the corn upright on the flat end and use a gentle sawing motion to slice the kernels onto your chopping board.

Add the kernels to a large bowl, and be sure to add the cob’s milk to the kernels. I used the dull end of the knife to scrape all of the milk into the bowl, but found wringing the cob with my hands—in a twisting motion—released the most milk.

In a food processor (or blender), puree the kernels and accumulated juices with about 1 cup of water until chunky. If you are making the full recipe, you may need to puree in two batches.

(Though these are Martha’s recommendations, I found this previous step a little pointless if you’ve got an immersion blender—my most beloved used appliance).

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook the pureed corn, butter, 3 cups water, and 1 tbsp. coarse salt until the butter is melted and the soup is heated through, 5 minutes. (I blended 1/2 cup chicken stock with the corn). Taste for seasonings—essential in every cooking endeavor. I found the soup surprisingly rich and added a little more water. The original recipe called for too much water, I liked the soup a little thicker.

Serve hot with generous squeezes of lime for a fabulous starter to my grilled quesadillas with salsa verde, coming up the next post!

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succulent steak

If you’ve visited A Pear to Remember before this, I don’t blame you for being bewildered. No, I didn’t develop a recent palette for beef. But in cooking for crowds recently, I’ve found flank steak a smash hit. Andrew, as my Certified Meat Taster, assures you this marinade is stellar. Eyes wide and an “Oh, honey”! Your guests with surely agree in delight.

Miraculous Marinade

for chicken, beef, pork from Susan Wyler’s Cooking For A Crowd

this recipes halves and multiplies easily, this is for 36 servings

6 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts

6 pounds skirt (or flank) steak

4 medium onions

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups fresh orange juice

1 cup sherry vinegar

2/3 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

2/ tbsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. ground cumin

1 1/2 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Layer the chicken with half the onions and garlic in one large plastic container or large bowl. Layer the beef with the remaining onions and garlic in a second container or bowl.

Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, lime juice, oil, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Pour half over the chicken and half over the beef. (Note: If you are preparing this recipe so that you can grill the chicken in advance, make all the marinade, pour half over the chicken, and store the remainder in a covered jar, to use the day you grill the beef. It is not safe to use all the marinade for the chicken and reuse it for the beef.) I usually make this marinade a day before and marinate the steak overnight.

Best Tip: Dry the meat so it browns.

To cook the chicken, prepare a moderately hot fire in a barbecue grill (or heat a stovetop grill). Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry, scrape off any onions of garlic that cling. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally, until the chicken is nicely browned outside and white inside, but still juicy, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for a minute or two, then slice into thin strips.

To cook the beef, remove the skirt or flank steaks from the marinade and pat dry; scrape off any onions or garlic. Prepare a hot fire in a barbecue grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side; this steak needs to be on the rare side or it will be tough. (Still, I cooked it a bit longer, making a cut in the middle to ensure it was not overdone). Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for a minute or two before carving crosswise on the diagonal into thin slices. 

One possibility: Serve the chicken and beef strips with warm flour tortillas and your choice of garnishes. I grilled poblano peppers and onions, and served with tomatillo guacamole , sour cream, and varied salsas. Don’t forget this unbeatable Mexicali salad.

Another possibility: Serve with grilled onions and mushrooms, fresh ciabatta slices, and these slow-roasted tomatoes. Homemade mac and cheese makes for a memorable entrée.

in the kitchen, where else?

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mexicali. cha! cha! cha!

MEXICALI is a new word for me (and you know how I adore great words). When I came across this Mexicali Chop with Crunchy Tortilla Strips recipe, I assumed “Mexicali” termed a festive blend of regional cuisines—perhaps Mexico and California? Okay, so 3 seconds of research proved me wrong. Mexicali is a city in Baja California, Mexico, located across the border from Calexico, California. So I wasn’t too far off.

With lots of corn and tomatoes on hand, I invited Andrew’s parents over for un poco Mexican feast. A Mexicali chop salad, caramelized onion & Jack cheese tortillas, cantaloupe ruffles, and pineapple-cilantro chicken.

CANTALOUPE RUFFLES

I’ve always been afraid of cantaloupe. Don’t ask me what’s so intimidating about cutting into large, heavy fruits, but I’m admitting here and now I’ve not worked my way up to a pineapple.

Sure enough, once I sliced both poles of my fruity globe, the peel was not a challenge from there. (A small Wednesday triumph). Now, one can chop into traditional wedges at this point, but you know I love experimenting. And I love vegetable peelers. When I make one of my favorite dishes, egg noodles with zucchini and carrot ribbons, I blanch beautiful vegetable strips easily produced by a vegetable peeler. I played around with the same idea here.

Once you remove the skin, cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds, just start peeling strips from the flat core. Press the peeler firmly to cut strips that aren’t too thin.

That’s it! Arrange the ribbons in piles, or little swirls. Garnish, as I did, with lime zest and a light drizzle of honey. For very sweet cantaloupe, the honey really isn’t necessary, but a little lime juice on top of the zest is just right.

So easy and elegant.

MEXICALI CHOP

This salad has three components in the prep: the tortilla crunchies, the dressing, and the salad pieces. It may sound a little tedious, but the prep doesn’t take long. Besides, you can adjust the salad parts to your preferences (as I did), making the dressing ahead of time, and hopefully you will also find that you have a lot of these ingredients on hand.

Here’s a visual so the parts make sense:

the dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

pinch cayenne pepper

I have an aversion to most recipes with over five ingredients, but the photo of this salad in Vegetarian Times was irresistable.

You will need a blender (or an immersion blender). Heat the oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, sugar, and salt in a saucepan for 2-3 minutes over low heat, or until the garlic begins to sizzle. 

(With all of these dried spices, the dressing can be a little gritty. Be sure to stir the contents over the heat so the sugar dissolves.) Blend the remaining ingredients with a garlic-spice oil. That’s it! Stick in the fridge or just set aside.

the crunchy tortilla strips

1.5 tsp. canola oil

3 6-inch corn tortillas

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

Corn tortillas are bland on their own but trust me that you need them for this recipe! Preheat the oven to 350F and brush the oil on the tortillas. Cut in half, then cut into 1/8-inch wide strips.

Spread the strips on a baking sheet and combine the chili power, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the strips. Now I ended up doubling the chili-salt-sugar mixture. I didn’t find this given amount to be enough, and since I used a mild chili powder blend, ample spice on top was just delicious.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until crisp. Set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the salad.

salad

1 head romaine lettuce, sliced thin (8 cups)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped (2 cups)

1 avocado, diced (1 cup)

3 celery stalks, sliced think (1 cup)

1 seedless cucumber, diced (1 cup)

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed)

3/4 cup cooked pinto beans

1/2 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, rinsed, drained, and sliced thin

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

As I said before, you can certainly adjust these ingredients to your own preferences. I excluded pinto beans and celery in my version. Toss all the salad ingredients together with tortillas strips and 1/4 cup dressing. I recommend serving the dressing on the side, so as not to make those crunchy bits all soggy. Serving your salads on a flat platter allows your eaters to get all those delicious and teeny ingredients that might otherwise spend their evening in the bottom of the bowl. 🙂

per 1 and 3/4-cup serving: 160 calories, 4 grams protein, 8 grams total fat (1 gram saturated fat), 21 grams carbs, 0 mg cholesterol, 229 mg sodium, 6 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar (this recipe is gluten free and vegan)

Since you’re enjoying such a healthy, crunchy salad, you may consider my onion-jack cheese tortilla wedges on the side. To use up the remaining few corn tortillas, I sprinkled them with caramelized onions, topped with shredded colby jack and sharp cheddar cheeses. While I broiled the pineapple-cilantro chicken tenderloin, I placed a baking sheet of these tortillas beneath. Next time, I’ll place the tortillas on a cooling rack over a baking sheet to crisp the underside. Once you pull the tortillas out of the oven, drizzle lightly with the following: sour cream thinned with lime juice, a generous sprinkle of lime zest and chopped cilantro.

The salad recipe is from the July/August 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times.

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their eyes were watching dog

Andrew and I have the very privileged job this week of dog-sitting Gus, my golden retriever dog-in-law. Also Lucy, the royal cat. This entails house-sitting, too, so when my Pops said he was going to come by, I got to cook him a scrumptious dinner in a nice big kitchen for a change.

As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad has historical vegephobic tendencies, so I take it upon myself to cook him something extra healthy (never sacrificing delicious).

With an obesity exam until 4pm, this had to be a last-minute, 5pm-run-to-the-grocery-store dinner, and couldn’t require excessive preparation. Quesadillas! Quick, crowd-pleasing, adaptable to carnivores!

Another rare occasion: indulgent grocery money. I found an excuse to visit my friend Mark at Whole Foods and discuss produce recommendations. He introduced me to champagne mangoes… oh, you wouldn’t believe them! They have a thin yellow peel, sweet flavor, and buttery texture. They’re hanging out here in front of the avocados and fresh herbs.

I envisioned simple, sweet onion-filled whole-wheat tortillas with a festive fruit salad. If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know I’m on quite the avocado fix—today was no exception!

First, the guacamole. I typically mash avocado with lime juice, red onions, and cilantro. Today’s inspiration was from Bon Appetit: a simple guacamole with basil, lemon, and shallots. For the recipe, click here! I loved this new combination for basil, and will surely be making this again.

I also love servingware, so it was fun to present my food in Alice’s colorful dishes!!

My frequent Vegetarian Times reading introduced me to the idea of using citrus zest & juice to dress fruit salads. Come to think of it, lime zest would have been spectacular to brighten my dish even further. With such ripe pineapple and special mango, I didn’t want to complicate things. A squirt of lime juice and chopped fresh mint was…mmm… just enough to keep things interesting.

With the accompaniments prepared, the quesadillas were about fifteen minutes of prep and assembly. Grilled onions would be divine here, but I stuck them under a high broiler, which was far more accessible in my cooking rush. I brushed sweet onions and red onions with a little bit of olive oil on both sides and flipped them after about 3 minutes until barely charred.

a sheet of foil beneath for easier clean-up!

Set these aside in a small bowl to reuse the baking sheets for my quesadillas. Since I had the luxury of purchasing fresh herbs for this evening’s meal, I also treated us to fresh cilantro. To accompany the sweet onions, I chopped up some roasted piquillo peppers (jarred from Trader Joes!), proceeded to slice a valuable finger (impeding my current typing abilities), and also included cilantro and lime juice with shredded Monterey jack cheese. Next time, I’ll add even more cilantro and lime for kick.

As you can tell, these tortillas were so huge, two scarcely fit on a single baking sheet. I decided to fill only half and save myself space in the oven, which I heated to 500 degrees—I hoped to melt the cheese quickly and crisp the tortillas.

I did brush a teeny bit of olive oil on the outside of the tortillas, flipping the halves over after five or so minutes, once the tops were golden brown. You may be envisioning these flimsy flour wraps spilling their contents upon flipping, but whole-wheat tortillas are so hearty, this was no problem. Besides the whole-wheat contributing obvious nutritional value, the quesadillas had such crunch you don’t often find with white flour! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And did I mention easily delicious?

Dad digs in (happily)!

Of course, Gus was disappointed we offered my dad the leftovers.

This meal may sound indulgent, and it tasted so for sure. But with minimal cheese, this meal was low in saturated fats and packed with nutrient-dense ingredients. When you’ve got a creative menu filled to the brim with fruits and veggies and, oh yes!, whole grains, you’ve got the flavors for something memorable.

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